Guiding its readers through economic hardship is nothing new to the staff of Boating Industry magazine.
The U.S. recreational marine business’ first “trade journal” was founded in 1929, the year of the stock market crash that kicked off The Great Depression. But James W. Peaslee stuck to the commitment with which he launched the publication: to pursue “a long course” with “no limit to its possibilities.”
At the time, the magazine was a business resource for the industry when it desperately needed one. And having survived the 12 recessions since then, it has circled back to play a similar role today.
That path, however, has had its share of hurdles. When Boating Industry was acquired by its current owners, Affinity Group, in late 2002, for example, its market share had shrunk to less than 25 percent.
Reader and advertiser loyalty had declined following changes in strategy (specifically an “international” push) and ownership, as well as the introduction of competitors.
But through a combination of reader feedback and market analysis, the new owners realized they had a unique opportunity. The marine industry, with its roots in small, family-run businesses, was striving toward a new level of professionalism in an effort to meet customers’ escalating expectations without a resource to guide them.
Boat dealers, in particular, were seeking benchmarking information they could use to measure their success and best practices to help them take their business to a new level.
“As we enter into our seventh year of ownership of the Boating Industry brand, we realize that the real measurement of our progress lies with the development of the industry as a whole and their adoption of the myriad best practices that we put forth on a daily basis through our Web efforts, and on a monthly basis in our printed magazine,” explains Tammy Galvin, vice president of Affinity Media. “We remain quite humbled to serve as the conduit of excellence for the marine industry.”
Out of that realization was born Boating Industry’s Top 100 Dealers, an editorial awards program that recognizes marine dealer excellence.
The wealth of marine dealer information that came out of the Top 100 Program — and continues to do so as the program enters its fifth year — has given Boating Industry a competitive advantage, allowing the magazine to fulfill its mission of being a trusted source of proven solutions that deliver real results to its readers.
By studying and sharing the practices of leading dealers, Boating Industry has been able to play a role in raising the bar of marine business professionalism.
“We recognized early on that there had never been a place for dealers to turn to learn best practices — no one had really collected that type of information,” says Matt Gruhn, associate publisher and editor-in-chief. “We began collecting it, and over time, we’ve not only been able to use it to celebrate the successes found throughout the marine industry, but we’ve also been able to share their strategies and help other dealers get better.”
By fulfilling its mission, the magazine has also been able to grow its market share over the past five years. But perhaps more importantly, it has also enabled Boating Industry to serve as a much-needed tool for marine dealers as it faces what many have described as the worst economic downturn since the year the magazine launched.